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My passions lay in the field of immunology and microbiology. My interest was launched at the beginning of my university career when I got a community associates methicillin resistant S. aureus infection (MRSA). This skin infection, while not severe, made me acutely aware of pathogens effects to us. Host-pathogen interactions interest me as understanding them helps us design vaccines and other treatments against diseases.
I am privileged to pursue the study of S. aureus interactions with host immune system for my PhD degree at Virginia Tech. I use the bovine model to study mastitis causing S. aureus strains. The objective of my research is to find the parts of S. aureus that cause effective immune reaction and have a potential to enhance immune responses at mucosal membranes.
My experience in crystallography, study of proteins on the atomic level, gives me a connection to deep molecular interactions. This helps to understand the intricacies of the connections between different immune cells, and between immune cells and pathogens.
The future of health care policies should lie on solid scientific base. I am interested in helping students as well as society at large understand how the immunology and microbiology affect us. My duty as a scientists is to produce new information as well as communicate it effectively.
I earned my bachelors degree in biochemistry from University of Oulu, Finland. I have minors in chemistry and microbiology. My masters degree is in biochemistry with emphasis on protein science from University of Oulu, Finland. My thesis topic was “Studying rotavirus non-structural protein 1 interactions with host proteins”. The practical laboratory work was conducted at Montana State University with Dr. Michele Hardy.
Research and teaching experience:
- 2007 Summer internship at Montana State University Department of Veterinary immunology, in the lab of Dr. Michele Hardy.
- 2009-2010 Internship at University of Western Australia, in the lab of Dr. Charles Bond.
- 2010-2011Research assistant at University of Oulu, Finland, in the lab of Dr. Petri Kursula.
- Current Graduate student at Virginia Tech, in the lab of Dr. Isis Kanevsky-Mullarky
- Teaching assistant on Mammary Immunology (DASC 4384) in 2012 spring and 2014 spring included grading of short writing exercises, and teaching a class on use of EndNote. In 2014 I also taught a few classes on S. aureus and lipopolysaccharide.
- Teaching assistant on Management on Data from Animal Experiments (ALS 5405) in 2013 spring included helping students with use of SAS programming and grading homework.
The AAVI-AAI Young Investigator Award: The American Association of Veterinary Immunologists with sponsorship from The American Association of Immunologists (December 2012). Granzyme B release is triggered by activation of bovine lymphocytes. 3rd place in poster presentation competition.
Best Score Award in poster category: Graduate Student Association, Virginia Tech (May 2013). Staphylococcus aureus antigens activate bovine lymphocytes to produce Granzyme B.
The AAVI-AAI Young Investigator Award: The American Association of Veterinary Immunologists with sponsorship from The American Association of Immunologists (December 2013). Staphylococcus aureus antigens induce long term Th17 cell responses. 1st place in poster competition.
Second prize in oral presentation: Graduate Student Association, Virginia Tech (May 2014). Bovine lymphocyte responses to Staphylococcus aureus antigens.
Outstanding Graduate Teaching assistant: Dairy Club at Virginia Tech (May 2014). For work with undergraduates in Mammary Immunology -class (DASC 4384).
Publications and conference presentations:
Lehtimaki, M., S. Laulumaa, S. Ruskamo, and P. Kursula. 2012. Production and crystallization of a panel of structure-based mutants of the human myelin peripheral membrane protein P2. Acta Crystallographica Section F 68:1359-1362.
Myllykoski, M., A. Raasakka, M. Lehtimaki, H. Han, I. Kursula, and P. Kursula. 2013. Crystallographic analysis of the reaction cycle of 2′,3′-cyclic nucleotide 3′-phosphodiesterase, a unique member of the 2H phosphoesterase family. J Mol Biol 425:4307-22.
Ruskamo, S., R. P. Yadav, S. Sharma, M. Lehtimaki, S. Laulumaa, S. Aggarwal, M. Simons, J. Burck, A. S. Ulrich, A. H. Juffer, I. Kursula, and P. Kursula. 2014. Atomic resolution view into the structure-function relationships of the human myelin peripheral membrane protein P2. Acta Crystallogr D Biol Crystallogr 70:165-76.
Lehtimaki, M.K., S DaCosta, A Johnson, IK Mullarky. 2012. Granzyme B release is triggered by activation of bovine lymphocytes. (079P) Proceedings of the 93rd Annual Meeting of the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Disease. Chicago IL.
Lehtimaki, M.K., S DaCosta, A Johnson, IK Mullarky. 2013. Staphylococcus aureus antigens activate bovine lymphocytes to produce Granzyme B. 29th Annual Graduate Research Symposium. Blacksburg VA.
Lehtimaki, M.K., S. Garst, A. Johnson, S. DaCosta, W. Wark, W. Mwangi, I. Kanevsky-Mullarky. 2013. Staphylococcus aureus antigens induce long term Th17 cell responses. (055P) Proceedings of the 94th Annual Meeting of the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Disease. Chicago IL